Presidential candidate Donald Trump smiles while Sen. Marco Rubio (L) and Ben Carson look on during the CNBC Republican Presidential Debate, Oct. 28, 2015 in Boulder, Colo.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty

Latest polls show top GOP candidates with key advantages

If Republican voters are planning to abandon the amateur presidential candidates for their establishment counterparts, they sure are taking their sweet time about it.
Consider the new national McClatchy/Marist poll. (There is no trend line; these are the first national results from this pollster.)
1. Ben Carson: 24%
2. Donald Trump: 23%
3. Marco Rubio: 12%
4. Jeb Bush: 8%
4. Ted Cruz: 8%
The remaining candidates are at 5% or lower, but what makes this poll especially interesting is a separate question: “Regardless of whom you may support, would you say that the more you hear about ____ the more you like him/her, or the more you hear about ____ the less you like him/her?”
In response, a whopping 67% of GOP voters say their impressions of Carson are improving, well ahead of the 58% who said the same about Rubio and 51% about Cruz. On the other hand, a 58% majority said the more they hear about Jeb Bush, the less they like him, ahead of the 49% who said the same about Trump.
The same poll found that a third of GOP voters chose Bush “as the one they do not want to win the nomination. That was second only to Trump.”
In hypothetical general-election matchups, McClatchy/Marist found Hillary Clinton leading each of the leading Republican candidates, by margins ranging from 2 percentage points (vs. Carson) to 15 percentage points (vs. Trump). The results for Bernie Sanders were similar, though he trailed Carson and his leads over the GOP field were generally slightly smaller.
At the state level, meanwhile, the results were fairly similar in the latest Monmouth poll of South Carolina Republicans:
1. Ben Carson: 28% (up 13 points from August)
2. Donald Trump: 27% (down three points)
3. Marco Rubio: 11% (up five points)
4. Ted Cruz: 9% (up four points)
5. Jeb Bush: 7% (down two points)
The remaining candidates were at 2% or lower, including Carly Fiorina, who was at 6% in South Carolina over the summer.
Finally, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll didn’t include horse-race results, at least not yet, but it noted favorability scores for the leading Republicans: “Over seven in 10 Republicans have a positive view of Carson (71 percent), similar to his 68 percent favorable rating in a Post-ABC poll six weeks ago. Businessman Donald Trump is close behind, with 69 percent favorability among Republicans, followed by Sen. Marco Rubio at 58 percent, former Florida governor Jeb Bush at 56 percent and Sen. Ted Cruz at 53.”
The common thread that binds all of the recent data: the Amateur Duo continue to lead the crowded GOP field, and all of the predictions about their inevitable fade have obviously not come true.